Review: Moana

Moana is the newest film from Disney Animation after their revamp in 2010 with Tangled (read about the revamp here). From filmmakers Ron Clements and John Musker [the people behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog (read my analysis of that here)]comes a new tale with a new Disney “princess” that is sure to make people sing along and cheer. Sure, that’s a clichéd thing to say about a Disney movie but this one definitely has an abundance of magic in it. Starring newcomer Auli’l Cravalho as the titular Moana, Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Rachel House as Gramma Tala, and Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui, we follow Moana as she must sail across the sea to get the Demigod Maui to help save her island from disaster that will end her people. And, to be honest, at least upon the first viewing, I enjoyed this film even more than Zootopia, which I loved. I mean, I walked out of this theater humming…

Disney films are unique to me because they can get away with having villains that don’t really stand out… their villains are almost always inner demons, and characters having to overcome obstacles in their character to become a hero that they were almost always destined to be. Following the Hero’s Journey to a T, this film focuses on the characters of Moana and Maui, and the journey they take together. I can’t say I’ll remember the lava monster thing, but the lead characters are unforgettable for sure, and they are the most prominent and well-developed elements in this film. Moana is impossible not to love, and she reminded me a lot of Hercules in a lot of ways, and then though Maui was the demigod in the film, and Moana was simply a mortal, she proved that one doesn’t have to have the blood of Gods, but rather just the heart of a hero in order to become one. Sorry, that was super cheesy, I know, but it’s true… and this is a Disney review, so I feel like I’m allowed to say some cheesy things without attracting eye-rolls. Cut the check, Hallmark. I mentioned that this film follows the Monomyth religiously, and even though it does this, I was still taken by surprise at a few points, especially at the end, and I have no clue how I didn’t see it coming. The ending was surprisingly unpredictable, even though the rest of the film is what you’ve seen in many other films; it seems almost anticlimactic, but in a great and original way.

I mentioned in my review of The Secret Life of Pets that the aspect of the film that stood out to me was the animation, and even though I thought the film was trash, even Helen Keller could see how beautiful the thing looked… Moana looks 100x better, and that’s not even a slight understatement. I hear that water is the hardest thing to animate (as well as hair, wet hair, and other things like that) but this looked absolutely amazing, and I think that this animation even beats out most movies’ special effects from this year. The visuals were impressive due to their realistic nature, and the cartoony looking people and animals with their exaggerated features were a great aesthetic juxtaposition, and made the movie a lot of fun to watch, purely on a visual level. The film also sounded great due to it’s voice cast, who did wonderfully filled the characters with life and emotion, and of course the soundtrack which is not only melodically catchy, but beautiful; the songs felt very Hawaiian and authentic, yet contemporary as well. Moana is sure to please your senses- I was in a theater full of kids and adults, who both enjoyed this film thoroughly. The kids were laughing and singing along, and the adults were having just as great of a time. And I was too. Really, the only issues I had with this movie were that Hei-hei, the bird, started to annoy me, and the film used the same jokes with him over and over and over again throughout the film. He’s dumb, we get it, and they told us two dozen times. Also, I sort of got déjà vu in the film- from itself. I just think the film stays in neutral and treads water for about 15-20 minutes at the end of the second act, and not much happens during that time. I started to get a little bored and doze off, and I know that I wasn’t simply tired, because I watched La La Land right afterwards and was WIDE awake for that movie. So, I think this film gets a little slow and redundant towards the end, but then it picks itself back up and finishes on a great note.

Overall, Moana proves yet again that Disney has a recipe for success- this film contains every bit of Disney magic due to it’s lighthearted nature, catchy songs, great voice cast, gorgeous animation, and story that surprised me with how it followed the Hero’s Journey, but remained pretty original as well. It’s fun, it’s funny, and I think it’s going to be pretty unforgettable as the years go by; Moana is a great addition to the long list of great Disney films, and Moana is a great addition to the long list of great Disney characters. I’m going to give Disney’s Moana a 7+/10, and a green review, which means “Yes, I recommend this film with two thumbs up!” Have you seen this film? What did you think about it? As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

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